Brad Cabana made a good point the other day. Cabana, a Saskatchewan native, was talking to Open Line host Bill Rowe on Tuesday about his failed one-man court challenge of the Muskrat Falls hydro project. (He plans to appeal the decision.)
Near the end of the conversation, Cabana brought up all the personal attacks against him that were showing up on the VOCM website and other media.
“I find it ironic when one idiot in Alberta writes a letter to the editor about Newfoundland, that he obviously has no clue (about), and everyone gets in a fuss, but I have 30 or 40 or 50 people on any given day … saying that I have no place here, that I should shut up and I should go back where I came from.”
The “idiot” to which he refers is one Shawn Mitchell, a heretofore little-known Albertan who wrote a letter to the Calgary Sun lamenting that Calgary has supposedly been invaded by lazy, loutish East Coasters who are stealing Albertans’ jobs. The letter was replete with crass insults and stereotypes about people from “da rock,” but came with an editor’s note at the end: “Hey. Back off the Newfoundlanders. They are amazing people.”
Predictably, a Telegram story on the letter set off a firestorm of comment, most condemning Mitchell’s opinion in no uncertain terms. Even the Sun’s opinion editor admitted he regrets running it.
It’s debatable whether such a letter should see the light of day. Randy Simms addresses that question in his column for Saturday’s Telegram. But it’s also interesting to note how insular and blind people can be in both saying such things and in responding to them.
It’s one thing when high-profile personalities make regional slurs. The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente had no excuse for portraying Newfoundland as a “vast and scenic welfare ghetto” some years back. The late Ralph Klein, when he was mayor of Calgary in 1982, gave a speech to the Calgary Newcomers’ Club in which he complained about “creeps” and “bums” who came from Eastern Canada “without jobs, without accommodation and without money to take care of themselves.”
Klein later tried to water down the comments, saying the wasn’t talking specifically about Eastern Canadians.
It’s another thing, however, when some ordinary joe starts blasting his fellow Canadians. It’s different, because such trolls will always be among us, lurking in the shadows, lashing out whenever they see fit.
It’s different, as well, because the phenomenon is not exclusive to any one province or region. Newfoundlanders are basically friendly people. But so are Saskatchewanians, and Albertans, and Prince Edward Islanders. None of us has a monopoly on kindness.
Perhaps it’s important to occasionally out the bigots and the racists. They deserve our scorn and derision. But that’s really all they deserve.
As Bill Rowe said to Cabana: “You don’t pay any attention to that, do you?”